To enter the immersive realm of Still Point Turning World is to join guitarist/composer Joel Harrison and colleagues in embracing the gloriously enlightening globalization of music, unhindered by category or preconception. This original eight-movement work brings together contemporary percussion quartet Talujon (Matt Ward, Michael Lipsey, Tom Kolor, David Cossin), Indian sarode player Anupam Shobhakar, and jazz musicians
Hans Glawaschnig (bass), Ben Wendel (saxophone/bassoon) and Dan Weiss (drums/tabla) to realise the guitarist’s striking, kaleidoscopic vision. Guests include V. Selvaganesh (perc.), Nittin Mitta (tabla), and Stephan Crump (bass).
“For many years, I have held up an ideal”, explains Harrison, “…to bring under one roof those sounds I most love. This often involves working with seemingly disparate systems of music. All music exists contemporaneously, and each new piece brings us a code to crack. In this case, the code is: how to balance extensive notation and improv; those who read [notation] and those who don’t; a drone instrument (that cannot play harmony) with western harmony; music that specifically grooves and music that doesn’t.”
The breadth of Washington DC-born Joel Harrison’s discography (twenty albums, as leader) speaks of the eclecticism of his creativity, encompassing jazz, blues, rock, classical, Appalachian music, and intensely personal, lyrical songs. 2014 Whirlwind release Leave the Door Open (also featuring Anupam Shobhakar) provided an earlier glimpse of his inspired interactions. Still Point – Turning World seeks out further expansive pathways thanks to Harrison’s skilful integration of beguiling, unexpected timbres and rhythms, all presented by the virtuosic and shared prowess of this impressive nonet.
“Anupam Shobhakar is a true master of his gharānā”, enthuses Harrison,“and a restless adventurer for new sounds – an Indian classical musician who can straddle all these worlds; a consummate artist and risk-taker. In Dan Weiss, Anupam and I have the perfect foil, as Dan is a very serious student of Indian music and an amazing jazz drummer. Ben and Hans encompass any idea that I have and make it their own, and Talujon are a wonderful match for my writing, intrigued (as I am) by Indian rhythm cycles, jazz, African music, etc.”
Dive into ‘Raindrops in Uncommon Times' and you’re transported along marimba and tabla-hued tributaries as guitar, sarode, sax, and konnakol improvisations coruscate across its rippling shadows; and in ‘One is Really Many’, the excitement of Shobhakar’s complex Indian raga patterns are matched by Weiss’s intense, fiery drumming. Harrison’s gritty, wailing guitar phrases and Wendel’s extraordinary wailing saxophone color ‘Permanent Impermanence’, leading on to mystically percussive interlude ‘Wind Over Eagle Lake’ and ‘Ballad of Blue Mountain’s W. African-derived rivulets. Furtive ‘Time Present Time Past’ crackles with crossrhythms and stratified riffs; epic ‘Creator/Destroyer’ explodes with multiple solos and an extraordinary percussion intro; and the relative calm of closing ‘Blue Mountain (A Slight Return)’ is ramped up by mesmeric tabla and kanjira, featuring the exquisite Selvaganesh, who is best none for playing with John McLaughlin in Remember Shakti. Careful listening shows linked themes that binds the work together.
The concept of Still Point - Turning World is to take the listener on a soulful journey”, confirms Harrison. “The aim is to go deeply into quiet, private introverted spaces, and then also into passionate explosions of percussive wildness.” This is, indeed, a genre-busting odyssey of discovery.
London has become the epicentre of a new wave of jazz and jazz related sounds, and amongst the scene there is a deep pool of artists and labels who have all contributed to this shift in musical-direction. One such label is Whirlwind Recordings: a musician-owned and operated indie that has released an eclectic catalogue of over 130 albums since its inception in 2010, while garnishing a global following of fans and supporters. The label provides a platform for showcasing adventurous & visceral music that spans genres, is rooted in originality and has a key emphasis on the improvised. The artists on the label range from established masters to guiding lights of their generation to undiscovered stars in the making.
“Whirlwind Recordings gives modern jazz a fresh, new face. The label’s inspired roster of talent bridges genres, instruments and generations—a testament to founder Michael Janisch’s insight into not only where jazz has been, but where it’s headed.”